The State Asset Recovery Bill (“Bill”) was passed in the National Assembly on Friday last after a robust debate. It is a bold and vital instrument in the anti-corruption effort, although modern anti-corruption legislation still remains to be addressed. When I wrote in 2012 that the PPP Governments had made efforts to curb corruption, but that by then it had become pervasive and further steps needed to be taken, it was legislation such as this that I had in mind. One of the triggers for my article was the many inquiries made of me for at least two years before my term as Speaker ended in 2010 as to whether AML/CFT legislation was pending. I knew that there was a requirement from CFATF that such legislation be passed but it was only when sanctions were threatened after the 2011 elections that the legislation was finally tabled by the last Government.
Political considerations were mainly responsible for the then combined APNU and AFC Opposition to oppose the AML/CFT Bill, just as political considerations are now mainly responsible for the current Opposition opposing the Bill.
The pacu is a fish related to the pirhana. The sweet water pacu has fearsome, human-like, teeth. However, unlike the pirhana, it feeds principally on nuts, fruit, insects and small fish. Its love for ‘nuts’ is not related to its rumoured taste for men’s testicles. It appears that this rumour is not true. The salt water pacu, which has no teeth and no resemblance, is a popular dish in Guyana.
There is another meaning of ‘pacu.’ It refers to a person who can be easily deceived. Sniffing out for a quick buck, some foreigners were led to believe that Guyanese are a bunch of pacus. They are finding out differently.
Public rage in Georgetown continues to grow and expand as last Thursday’s massive demonstration shows, even as the Government has finally been forced to intervene in the parking meter fiasco. But it is too little too late. Boat gone a’ fall. The demand is now for the rescinding of the flawed agreement between the City Council and SCS.
The Government faltered when it allowed the City Council to proceed with the parking meter secret project, with charges that were outrageously high – 37 percent of the average monthly salary in Guyana as compared with a high of 13 percent of the monthly salary in the US. After the meeting between the Government and the City Council, the Government did not call for the release of the secret agreement. That is a telling omission.
The President’s address to the National Assembly was disappointing. The expectation was that he would use the occasion to announce the Government’s legislative agenda wrapped around policy initiatives for the next parliamentary year. There was a modicum of this. But on the whole it was a political speech, long on political partisanship and short on the solutions to the grave problems facing the nation, which was more appropriate to a political platform. Whoever caused the serious problems facing the Guyanese people, relating to the economy, crime, to name a few, the Government now has ownership of them. The Guyanese people are looking to the Government to solve them, not excuses as to why they cannot be solved. They are frustrated at the increasing hardship and impatience is rising.
There is no evidence that the Government has attached any importance to itself investing in Guyana’s economy or encouraging others to do so. The Government announced at the end of August that ‘almost nine months into the year, less that 50 percent of the 2016 National Budget has thus far been spent.’ No serious explanation was given for this ‘unfavourable’ and ‘embarrassing’ situation. Since it does not appear to have happened before, the question arises as to whether the trained and competent staff under the past administration that had responsibility are still in place or have been removed or hounded out or have left of their own accord. These are stories that are being heard all the time, with some evidence.
The Government has deemed as suitable the bond owned by Linden Holdings in Sussex Street, Georgetown, which it contracted to store pharmaceuticals at $1,200 a square foot, when a bond for $228 a square is available. The Government said that the rental will be negotiated downwards and if the negotiations are unsuccessful then twelve months notice of termination in accordance with the agreement would be given. At $12 million a month, this will cost the Guyanese taxpayer $144 million, payable to Linden Holdings for an initial $25 million investment which it has already recovered as an initial advance.
The Government might make mistakes, as Vice President Ramjattan admitted, but it does not lack an innovative and fertile imagination. The objections to the Government owned Diamond bond, which has been approved as suitable by international agencies, are that a fire can occur and that the traffic situation is not conducive!